Each year husbands ask their wives what they would like for Christmas, and most men would take it as a joke if their wife told them a zebra. However Bryan Becker knew his wife, Karen, wasn’t like most women when she asked for a zebra seven years ago. So he bought a zebra at—where else—Zebras R Us.
This Christmas gift was not a spur-of-the-moment decision without any planning. Karen had studied zebras and immediately went for zebra training in California to ensure she could properly care for her new gift.
The couple moved from Bountiful to Hardscrabble Road in Porterville two years ago with their animals. They love the area that allows them to enjoy their animals, but they have also found they especially love the people. They have received a welcome reception and found Morgan to be full of “wonderful people.”
Behind the stately locked gates housing a nearly 10,000 square foot house is an area perfect for their horses, goats, zebra and 15 cats. While the house is elegantly decorated and offers much, Karen doesn’t want to spend time indoors; she wants to spend every minute she can with her animals. Laughing, she will tell you she doesn’t want to shop, get ready, or even eat. She just wants to stay outside with her animals.
Her zebra, Zoola, is a Chapman, which differs slightly from the more iconic breeds of zebra. While Zoola has the expected striping for most of her body, the stripes do not extend down her legs as those of other zebras do. She also sports some brown striping.
Zebra’s distinct look sets them apart from the rest of the animal world, but their famous stripes also set them apart from each other. Just as the human fingerprint is as unique as the digit, a zebra has its own unique stripes. When a baby zebra, or foal is born, its mother will stand in front of her newborn. The mare will not allow others to come near while the foal imprints on/with its mother’s stripes generally within the first couple of days. The stripes on a zebra are thought to help confuse predators as it is hard to distinguish where one zebra ends and the next begins. This also helps protect the young and old zebras because it is harder for predators such as lions and hyenas to identify them.
Family bonds are very strong in the wild. In the wild zebras groom each other by biting hair off of their family members. Karen takes care of her Zoola by brushing her hair every day.
Zoola is not lonely. In addition to the great care she receives from Karen, she also has a pony she spends time with. They race and play with one another. The pony and the goats have a calming effect on the larger animals.
Zebras cannot eat protein. Unlike horses that often eat alfalfa, this common plant is fatal for their relative. Karen feeds her animals grass hay morning and night, along with carrot snacks. Zebras can be dangerous because they are naturally a wild animal. Karen doesn’t feel wild animals are ever completely tame. One day while caring for an injured tail, Zoola used her head to push Karen to the ground and then began biting her. Karen luckily escaped without too much harm. She says she always has an “out” when working with her zebra. These animals are very temperamental.
While Karen feels honored to own her zebra, she warns others that they are a very difficult animal to own. She isn’t sure she would purchase a zebra if she had it to do over again, but she loves Zoola anyway and wants to take good care of her.
Karen’s love of animals has caused her to help rescue and take care of abused and neglected animals. In fact, most of her animals she has owned have been rescued animals. The number of cats she now owns is an indication of how much she loves to help animals.
Karen’s love and fascination with horses began when she was only 2 or 3 years old. Her parents could never afford a horse, but that didn’t dismay young Karen from her love of the majestic four legged creatures. When she was old enough to ride a bike, she would ride to all of the farmers and neighbors with horses and ask if she could ride. Because she was so young and they didn’t know her, they always told her, “No.” Years later she was given a sick horse. After caring for her first horse, her love for them was sealed and has continued through the rest of her life.
The couple has worked hard to have the life Karen refers to as “a dream.” When they were first married they lived in Bryan’s grandparents’ basement and helped take care of them. He devised a plan that would mean they would work hard when they were young and be able to play when they were older. At 22 years old, they started their own business, Accutech Machine Inc. The couple worked seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., never stopping for vacations or extravagance.
Their hard work has paid off, allowing Karen to live her dream of spending time with her animals all day every day. Bryan is still working hard; however, his dream is to someday move to Florida and dive. Karen will find it difficult to leave her lifestyle she currently enjoys, but plans on helping her husband fulfill his dreams when he is ready.
The couple has given back to our community in the short time they have been here by purchasing 10 animals at the fair and then donating back to those in need, organizing and participating in other causes, and helping wherever they see a need.